By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 2300 Arena
Spoiler Warning: A portion of this show, including the main event, will air on Thursday’s MLW Fightland special on Vice TV.
The night began with a handful of empty seats, but by the time the meat of the card came around, it looked as though the place was almost full. Production seemed to begin and abruptly stop once the clock hit 7 and the crowd booed a little. But that went away quickly because Dr. Dax made his entrance, reminding everyone that the distance between some aspects of professional wrestling and BDSM isn’t as far as some might think.
1. Mads Krugger pinned Dr. Dax in less than a minute. Either Krugger is 14-feet tall or everyone else on the MLW roster can’t be taller than six feet. Dr. Dax was accompanied by Holidead, who looks so much like Thunder Rosa from a distance, I had to do a double take. Must be the face paint. After the match, it took some time, but Krugger got a microphone and called out Alexander Hammerstone. Krugger did the Contra chant a bunch and everyone booed. Fan-favorite Budd Heavy’s music then hit and the crowd was into it, but, alas, Krugger immediately took Heavy out despite a ton of “Budd” chants.
2. Mads Krugger pinned Budd Heavy in less than a minute. The Budd pop was a lot of fun because if you’ve seen him before, you’ve seen that his belly is not to be messed with. I was kind of worried we wouldn’t get a Budd appearance, but that was worth the drive alone.
3. Alex Kane pinned Warhorse. Kane came out for his open challenge and though people started to chant “Budd” again, the crowd erupted when Warhorse showed up. There was a lot of Warhorse firing up throughout the match, like the modern-day, lighter, quicker, indie version of the Ultimate Warrior that he is (I say lovingly). Kane is developing into a very good heel that can overpower opponents in intriguing ways. He’ll need to watch it, though, as crowds continue to get behind counting his suplexes, a la Brock Lesnar, and there’s only one Brock Lesnar. Those who believe in heels being heels might not take too kindly to that kind of popularity as it grows.
4. Calvin Tankman pinned Matt Cross in an Opera Cup opening round match. Tankman is a big guy and when he hits you, it echoes and it echoes a lot. The crowd was split for this, which was fun. I heard someone in the crowd say Tankman is MLW’s version of Keith Lee, but I don’t necessarily agree with that. Maybe a hybrid of Lee and Mark Henry if anything. Anyway, this was good for what it was and it actually went a few minutes longer than I anticipated. I’m not complaining. Tankman dominated for the bulk of it, and Cross got an ovation after he recovered to leave the ring. Tankman vs. Shelley, if we get it, could redefine the word wild.
5. Bobby Fish tapped Lee Moriarty out in an Opera Cup opening round match. Bobby Fish got what is easily the biggest pop of the night to this point (and might end up being the biggest, but we’ll see). Chants of “Bobby” and “Undisputed” erupted. And I do mean erupted. Fish looked better and happier in 10 minutes here than he did in at least the last 10 months of his WWE run. I was kind of surprised that Moriarty wasn’t booed, considering he’s from Pittsburgh and we’re in Philly, but Moriarty is also the bee’s knees when it comes to indie wrestling these days (and it’s well-deserved). The finish felt abrupt and a match like this could have used five to seven more minutes. It just seemed like there was more of a story to tell if they wanted to tell it.
6. Davey Richards defeated Tom Lawlor after Lawlor passed out in an Opera Cup opening round match. I actually liked the finish and for my money, was even better than Fish vs. Moriarty. You couldn’t think Lawlor was going to repeat in the Opera Cup, so I’d rather him pass out from pain than tap out in a traditional manner. This was a nice win for Richards. The story here was Lawlor working Richards’ arm, both in and out of the ring, but once Richards began attempting his ankle locks, it felt like the end was inevitable. The crowd was behind both wrestlers at different times, including one pretty loud “Filthy Tom” chant. Fish vs. Richards should be very good to great.
7. TJP pinned Alex Shelley in an Opera Cup opening round match. TJP held the ropes to get the pin, which earned him even more heat than he had, which was a lot. Dueling “Motor City” and “TJP” chants began the match, but at one point, one side of the room chanted “TJP” while the other chanted “Sucks.” From a booking standpoint, it was really smart to put this on after the Lawlor/Richards match because the pace was noticeably quicker and the contrast in styles between matches was welcome. Whereas the former focused more on body parts, the latter focused more on explosive, crisp action (with the exception of a whiffed knee from TJP late in the match). Good heat for TJP and a really fun match all around. After the match, Shelley cut a promo on TJP, challenging him to come back to the ring. TJP walked back to the ring, grabbed a mic and said “No.” The crowd chanted “Little bitch,” and to this point, it just so happened that TJP was the biggest heel of the night, which I didn’t have on my MLW Bingo card.
8. 5150 defeated Los Parks via disqualification. Halfway through the match, Homicide ran in for LAX. La Park countered a few seconds later for Los Parks. The match then became a trios brawl before the bell ring, so out came the chairs and tables. Ultimately, though, the bell rang, and I guess that meant Los Parks was disqualified once La Park hit someone with a chair. “ECW” and “We want fire!” chants ensued. The action didn’t stop after the match ended, of course, and Homicide hit a running flip to the outside. Pieces of the table were used to hit others. La Park did the dance. So on and so forth. It was everything anyone could have hoped it would be and more.
9. Nicole Savoy tapped Holidead out (or perhaps they called the match off). Holidead brought out Dr. Dax and chained him to a ring post while she wrestled. So, there’s that. This was good. They had the crowd with them the whole way, and after two hours and eight previous matches, that’s no easy feat. There were a couple clunky moments where it appeared fatigue may have set in, but this was a good TV match. The sad part was that the ref gave the “X” sign after the bell and it appeared Savoy was injured (which may be why she looked a little gassed toward the end). A trainer came out to tend to her, but from my view, I couldn’t quite tell what was wrong. There were some questions about a late bump she took, but she was visibly upset when they carried her by me. Either way, they were initially hesitant to move her. Here’s hoping it’s nothing serious and she’ll be OK.
10. Tajiri defeated Myron Reed, Arez, and Aramis to win the MLW Middleweight Championship. The match began with Tajiri trading handshakes with the others and that was a nice touch. I’ll be honest: I was a bit distracted during this because an ambulance came for Savoy, who was wheeled out near me. Again, here’s hoping she’s OK. Back to this match, though … it was the spot-fest you’d hope it would be and it was by far the most engaged the crowd was up to this point. You cannot say it wasn’t entertaining, and I’m interested to see how this turns out on television. Tajiri did the green mist spot, and that was essentially enough to win. The finish felt a little rushed, but I’m guessing there were other priorities in play. Still, good for Tajiri.
11. Calvin Tankman pinned Alex Kane in an Opera Cup tournament semifinal match. It was unclear if this was part of an angle for the Opera Cup because the PA system isn’t the best and whatever promos were cut beforehand were hard to make out. But throughout the match, the Opera Cup logo appeared on the screens above the ring, and Kane was previously listed as an alternate for the tournament. What this means for TJP, I guess I missed or will be explained on television. Anyway, it’s rare that you’ll see anyone manhandle Kane the way Tankman did, but boy, when you see it, you’ll remember it. At one point, Tankman landed a holy-goodness vicious back elbow that should have been it, but Kane put a hand on a rope at the last millisecond for the break. Another great near-fall came after Tankman landed a cross-body from the top rope. Kane was protected somewhat, but Tankman appears to be the man. I hope and assume this means Tankman is in the Opera Cup finals because whoever the hell he meets, that should be can’t-miss.
12. King Muertes defeated “Filthy” Tom Lawlor in a casket match. This was fun if only for how much Lawlor sold how afraid he was of pretty much everything around him. It’s rare to see him in that mode, especially for being such a badass. Still, with all due respect to everyone involved, this was the low point of the night. As it goes, the lid of the casket both fell off and broke in half about halfway through the match, and that sort of ruined things because, well, as casket matches go, the only way to win is to close the door of the casket on top of your opponent. Still, they managed to get the job done with the help of a few supposed-to-be-impartial referees.
13. EJ Nudka was the sole survivor in the match between him, Savio Vega, Blue Meanie, Zenshi, Richard Holliday, Warhorse vs. King Mo, Gino Medina, Ikuro Kwon, Kevin Ku, KC Navarro and The Beastman. Warhorse was the first person eliminated and that was a bit of a surprise. More of a surprise was how quiet the crowd was compared to how loud it was at the beginning of the night when Warhorse ran out. Nearly four hours of wrestling can do that to you, I suppose, when you know the main event is still yet to come. Twelve people are a lot of people to have in one Survivor Series-style tag-team match, so this was kind of a cluster. Outside of Nudka, whose purpose was to shine, The Beastman had perhaps the best showing – at least as a dominant figure, considering how he eliminated half the other team. In all, this was more comedy than anything.
14. Davey Richards tapped Bobby Fish out in an Opera Cup semifinal match. The two sides of the crowd started chanting “Your side sucks!” to the other side in the middle of this, and if that didn’t embody how restless the crowd was at this point — during a Davey Richards/Bobby Fish match, no less! — then I don’t know what to tell you. This was a very good wrestling match, and while I’m happy to see Richards head to the finals, Fish winning would have been more fun. The crowd gave Fish a standing ovation at the request of Richards after the match. The two then hugged in the middle of the ring. And then … Fish attacked Richards, which woke up the crowd, so it looks like Fish will be sticking around. Richards vs. Tankman should be a hell of a final. My gut says Tankman is unbeatable and the post-matcha attack on Richards will give him an out for a loss, if that’s what they want to do.
15. The Sea Stars defeated Willow Nightingale and Zoey Skye. In terms of old WWE slang, this was the “let me up” match before, presumably, the main event. That said, it served its purpose. The action was fine and it didn’t overstay its welcome. Speaking of overstaying welcomes, the crowd had noticeably thinned at this point, and my goodness how much of a shame was that? The biggest match MLW has had in ages and a fifth of the crowd bails by the time it gets into the ring. I felt and still feel for Hammerstone and Fatu.
16. MLW National Openweight Champion Alex Hammerstone pinned MLW World Champion Jacob Fatu in a no DQ title vs. title match to win the MLW World Championship. The finish was odd with the ref not really getting all of the three count. Not sure if that will be cleaned up, but it felt like the right guy went over, especially after talking to Hammerstone earlier in the day, where he said in the media scrum that this was going to be the most important match of his life, and he sure backed it up with that brawl. Fatu just hits so hard with everything he does and he’s so fast while he does it. Fatu will also never not impress. And even so, Hammerstone took it all and more. This will be the one you’ll want to see on Vice above all else because not only did they get a little wild with the furniture, but they had almost everybody guessing until the very end with some good near-falls. A lot of fire-ups. A lot of no-selling. A lot of suspense. On to Vice TV and the Opera Cup finals we go.